Well, another year has gone by and that means reflecting on the past seasons to see if we can gleam some of that 20/20 hindsight to apply to 2017.
Like typical Canadians, weather was first and foremost on our minds, with our recent deep freeze reminding us that coastal British Columbia isn’t always the ‘Lotus Land’ we think it is – meaning that many of us have to resort to protecting those more tender trees and shrubs, such as Musa ‘basjoo’, Chinese windmill palm, and even those dahlia tubers that we leave in the ground and expect to come up next spring.
While those dormant dahlias in warmer foundation beds might do fine with the residual heat coming from the house, out in the garden you are going to have to learn to either lift and store them in a cool, frost-free shed or insulate them with a thick layer of bark mulch, so the freezing temperatures can’t reach them.
Tender shrubs such as California lilac or even bay leaf might benefit from a temporary frost blanket to trap in any protective heat during the colder overnight hours.
If you haven’t already protected your tender plants, you can expect some frost damage. But giving up entirely may mean the loss of them if the below-freezing weather continues.
One thing the brisk temperatures are useful for is pondering next year’s seed catalogue over a hot cup of coffee or tea. I have already had a peek at West Coast Seeds 2017 version and there are few new edibles to look forward to.
For the adventurous, there are two novel members of the tomato family that are both eaten for their berries: garden Huckleberry (Solanum melanocerasum) has near black fruit with blueberry-concord grape flavoured clusters that are usually sweetened and added to pies or jams; while golden pearls (Solanum villosum) has bright yellow berries that much resemble currants and grows well in containers.
For those that prefer a little spice in life, there is wasabi arugula and the Grinch-green wasabi radish, a Japanese heirloom with some kick.
Maple Ridge fair competitors can look for Goliath bush bean, with 22-centimetre pods that remain tender and flavourful, while ‘witch stick’ pepper produces 20 cm twisted corkscrew-shaped red fruits that are more sweet than spicy.
They also sell sprouting systems and the seeds, which are useful since most grocery stores have stopped offering our favourite alfalfa, mustard or broccoli sprouts, which make those cream cheese bagels worth eating.
When those mild winter days do finally make an appearance, then it is time to do our dormant fruit tree and berry pruning. Start with removing the dead or damaged portions, followed by any crossing branches or old wood.
Once your pruning is done, don’t forget the dormant spray to control overwintering pests and diseases on most fruit trees, with the exception of figs which don’t require it.
Of course, I don’t have to remind you to make sure that your old Christmas tree and holly are sent to the green waste, where they will be composted into soil or chipped and used for mulch.
As far as 2017 is concerned, you can look forward to a few new fruit trees, berries and vines, including ‘razz,’ a blueberry with raspberry flavours, Yuzu, the hardy, lemon and red arctic kiwis.
Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (firstname.lastname@example.org).